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Barbados: Country and Foreign Investment

Population, Language and Culture

The population is estimated to be just over 288,000 (2013), with quite high population density. About 90% of the population is of African descent, with 4% being European and 6% of Asian or mixed origins. English is the official language; English Creole is also widely spoken. The Protestant and Roman Catholic religions are dominant. The population has high levels of education and literacy.

After temporary occupations by Arawaks, Caribs and the Spanish, Barbados was claimed for King James I of England in 1625. Between 1627 and 1640, British colonists brought labourers from Britain and some African slaves to cultivate tobacco, cotton and indigo. Sugar plantations were introduced in the 1650s and by 1685 the population was around 50,000. By the end of the 18th century there were 745 plantations worked by over 80,000 African and African descended slaves.

Deplorable working conditions led to slave riots in 1702 and 1816. In 1833/4 slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire; the plantations were then worked by Asian indentured labourers.

During the global depression in the 1930s conditions in Barbados were so bad that island-wide riots took place. A British government enquiry revealed huge inequalities within the island and in 1940 some economic aid came from the UK under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act.

The Barbadian House of Assembly dates from 1639 but was largely a tool of the plantation owners who continued to dominate the country into the 20th century. From 1940 the franchise began to be widened, and two popular political parties evolved, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) under the leadership of Grantley Adams, and, later, the Democratic Labour Party led by Errol Barrow. These two parties have since alternated in power, as political rights and the structure of the economy have gradually improved.

Barbados was a member of the separatist Federation of the West Indies but became an independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth on its own account in 1966.

Barbados considered joining NAFTA, but is more likely to remain within the Association of Caribbean States as a Caribbean single market and economy develop. In January, 2006, Barbados was one of six Caricom member states which formally signed a declaration of their governments' compliance with the provisions of the Treaty establishing the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSM). Heads of government signed a document entitled 'Declaration by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community marking the coming into being of the Caricom Single Market'. These Member States entered into Single Market arrangements on 1 January 2006.

Most member states of CARICOM had signed up by 2008. It will be a while however before the CSME represents much more than token integration. Initially, freedom of movement for certain categories of people, and some mutual reductions of customs tariffs are the main features of the new grouping. Moves towards a common currency, a regional stock exchange and other economic measures will take longer to achieve.



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